How is depression diagnosed in a child?

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How is depression diagnosed in a child?

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Depression isn't always the easiest thing to diagnose in a child or an adolescent. It's not something you can do in a five or ten minute office visit. The real key is that you need to get a comprehensive evaluation. You need to understand the child's early development. You need to understand about the family and the family's history. You want to know how the child is doing in school; how they are doing with their siblings; how they are doing with their friends; the medical history. You need to know if there is any psychiatric history in the family. Then you want to spend time with the child and the family. You also want a physical exam or talk to the child's pediatrician because there are a lot of other medical conditions and medications that often cause symptoms that look like depression. They key is to get a comprehensive evaluation, which takes time. It may take more than one visit. The Academy of Child Psychiatry says that it may take several visits to get an accurate, comprehensive evaluation. You really need an accurate diagnosis because that helps you decide what's the appropriate treatment. There are also a lot of disorders that overlap and look like depression. For example, a child may have learning problems and that may look like depression. Or they may have a problem with anxiety, and that make look like depression. Or a problem with their attention. You really need to get to a trained, qualified mental health professional who really knows how to make this diagnosis and do these evaluations. Then you need to get a comprehensive evaluation. That's the key.

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David Fassler, MD

Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist

David Fassler, MD, is a child and adolescent psychiatrist practicing in Burlington, Vermont. A graduate of Yale University School of Medicine, he completed his training in adult psychiatry at the University of Vermont, and in child psychiatry at Cambridge Hospital, Harvard Medical School. He currently serves as clinical director of Otter Creek Associates, a multidisciplinary practice providing comprehensive mental health and substance abuse treatment services. Dr. Fassler is also a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Vermont, and the Director of Advocacy and Public Policy at the Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families.

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